The NFL regular season is still a week away, but college football kicked off yesterday while the Chargers were taking on the 49ers. As we are all truly passionate Charger fans we should know that we need to start looking at the amateur ranks to find those future Chargers. I'd love to tell you that if I was writing this series last year I would have been turning you on to Ryan Mathews, Donald Butler, Darrell Stuckey and Cam Thomas, but in reality that would not have been the case. A lot of players will need the majority of the college season to get themselves on the NFL radar. Mathews needed 2009 to prove he could be healthy and keep his explosiveness through the entire season. Donald Butler not only needed to be a leader on rebounding Washington team, but also his postseason workouts. Darrell Stuckey needed to solidify his role as a leader and a playmaker. And Cam Thomas really didn't come on until he went to the All Star Bowl games for Seniors. However, a lot of the players that were on the tips of our tongues on draft day were well known preseason prospects like C.J. Spiller, Terrence Cody, Rolando McClain and Derrick Morgan among others.
Here's how its going to work. The games I'm interested in are the high profile matchups of the season plus some games that I have a personal or vested interest in (i.e. Purdue or San Diego State games). In those games I'm looking for NFL prospects and I use some established NFL draft sites to find these prospects and get info on them. The kind of prospects I will try to focus on are the ones that the Chargers would consider. This means that guys ticketed for the top half of the 1st round probably aren't that interesting to us, although I may talk about these players from time to time because they will probably have an impact on the NFL. I also will tend to ignore certain positions because, let's face it, the Chargers will not be using a high draft on a Tight End or a Quarterback anytime soon.
Here's the matchups I'm focusing on for week 1:
Purdue (0-0) vs Notre Dame (0-0) - Saturday 9/4 12:30 PT (NBC)
LSU (0-0) vs North Carolina (0-0) - Saturday 9/4 5:00 PT (ABC)
Oregon St. (0-0) vs TCU (0-0) - Saturday 9/4 4:45 PT (ESPN)
Boise St. (0-0) vs Virginia Tech (0-0) - Monday 9/6 5:00 PT (ESPN)
Every week I'll also ask all of you to please share what games you'll be watching and what players you'd think would look good in blue and gold or just generally impressed/disappointed you.
Purdue - For those that don't know, Purdue is my alma mater. I'm a rational guy though so I'm not going to toot my team's own horn just because I went there. The Boilermakers are rebuilding under a 2nd year Head Coach and it could be a tough year. Nevertheless, they do have a really good NFL prospect and a national TV game with a storied school.
Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Senior, 6'4, 259 lbs (1st or 2nd round) - Let's face it, the Chargers have pass rush issues. Their supposed top pass rusher will be a free agent, their 2nd year 1st round pick hasn't looked stellar and their one productive OLB is not getting any younger. Ryan Kerrigan may not fix all the pass rush issues by himself but he definitely can help. He compares well with former teammate Anthony Spencer who gets sacks for the Cowboys 3-4 defense. He's fast, aggressive and has come up with a big play a bunch of times in his collegiate career.
Notre Dame - This school is not the college football powerhouse it once was. However, the Fighting Irish have high hopes for their new offensive minded coach and they have the NFL talent to make some noise this year.
Michael Floyd, WR, Junior, 6'3, 215 lbs (1st or 2nd round) - Who knows how things are going to shake out at WR this year so we best keep our eyes on many of the top prospects at the position. Floyd fits the Chargers tall wideout philosophy. He's got good hands and knows how to use that big body to get position. He's been very productive against top competition. The two knocks on him are his speed, which is not great but good for his size, and some injury issues. He needs a healthy senior season to stay at the top of draft boards.
Ian Williams, DE/DT, Senior, 6'1, 303 lbs (mid to late rounds) - The Chargers defensive line situation in 2011 seems to be pretty fluid with some young guys needing to prove something and some older guys getting older and having contracts expire. Williams will get overlooked by many 4-3 teams because his pass rush skills are lacking. However, as a 3-4 DE he could be an anchor against the run game and help set up LBs to make plays.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Junior, 6'5, 253 lbs (1st round) - He's not going to be on the Chargers radar, but he's one of the premier players in the country.
LSU - The perennial SEC powerhouse goes on the road in week 1. This team is notorious in Chargerland because of the number of players to come through Charger Park who also played in Baton Rouge. This season alone we've had Buster Davis, Jacob Hester, Josh Reed and Darry Beckwith. Demetrious Byrd was also in the Chargers organization recently.
Patrick Peterson, CB, Junior, 6'1, 211 lbs (1st or 2nd round) - The Chargers may need to look at CB in the 2011 draft. Maybe Cason doesn't work out. Maybe they just want to go for depth with Quentin Jammer and the veteran depth at the position all a year old. Peterson has NFL genes as he's related to NFL players Bryant McFadden, Sinorice Moss and Santana Moss. His biggest strength is his ball skills. On top of that he also has good height for the position. He can help in run support and is physical.
Terrence Toliver, WR, Senior, 6'3, 208 lbs (2nd or 3rd round) - Would A.J. go back to the LSU well for a WR early in the draft? I don't know, maybe. Toliver has the size you want at the position, but he has work to do learning the finer qualities of the position. 2010 is a big year for him, he could climb high on the draft boards or sink way down.
North Carolina - The Tarheels are better known for their basketball accomplishments than their pigskin ones, but this year the team is loaded with NFL talent. Well, at least they were until a number of players were made ineligible for the first week due to pending investigations. I'm actually going to skip over some of their top NFL prospects in DE/OLB Robert Quinn, DT Marvin Austin and OLB Bruce Carter in order to talk about guys that are more likely to be Chargers. Unfortunately, there's a chance than none of these players will even play in their opener. I almost considered removing this entry, but this is the evening game on ABC, I wanted to introduce the LSU players, some of these players are ones that I think could be real good fits for the Bolts and I'd already written much of this before the story broke.
Greg Little, WR, Senior, 6'3, 210 lbs (1st-3rd rounds) - He's tall enough and fast enough to make in the NFL as a starting WR, but his best quality is his hands. His normal catches are real smooth and he can go up to make the flashy plays as well. He's very competitive, tough and a leader. He hasn't yet had a big time year in college so scouts are looking for him to prove that he can produce in his senior year. He's definitely out for this game, but watch out for him the rest of the season.
Quan Sturdivant, ILB, Senior, 6'1, 227 lbs (2nd or 3rd round) - The first thing you notice is that weight, but I'm pretty sure he'll be able to bulk up. Right now he's a tremendous athlete that can play at inside and outside LB, but he'll need to work on refining his skills at those positions. He's also had an arrest for marijuana, but I don't think that'll count against him much. His athleticism has got him pretty far to this point, but senior year will be about proving he's more than just a workout warrior. He didn't travel with the team for this game, but still could be ruled eligible, show up and play.
Deunta Williams, S, Senior, 6'1, 204 (2nd or 3rd round) - The Chargers haven't had consistency at the safety position in a long time and there's a chance that will continue come draft day 2011. Most likely the Chargers will look for another DB that is a natural leader and can excel in coverage. Williams can be that guy. He's flashed the ability to cover TEs and slot WRs over the middle and is a leader on and off the field. He also didn't travel with the team for this game, but still could be ruled eligible, show up and play.
Oregon St. - Former Chargers coach Mike Riley is still kicking around in Corvallis and he's got a couple of interesting Beavers we should look at.
Stephen Paea, DT/DE, Senior, 6'1, 304 lbs (1st or 2nd round) - Born in New Zealand and raised in Tonga playing rugby he's only been playing football for 3 years. He has a non-stop motor and skills in the run game. He is a big hitter, he gets off the line well and he can use his hands. The knocks on him are his height and his struggles with pass rushing.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Junior, 5'7, 190 lbs (3rd round or later) - Darren Sproles' time with San Diego is probably up after this season and this guy could be his replacement. He's a great competitor with blazing speed, the moves to match and good hands. Obviously, his weaknesses are the typical ones for a player of his size: durability and power running. He has a brother on the team that also makes plays in James Rodgers. His brother is smaller and doesn't play RB, but could be a kick returner in the NFL.
TCU - The Horned Frogs are a solid team and will probably win this game in what should be a very good matchup, but they are short on NFL talent.
Andy Dalton, QB, Senior, 6'1, 217 lbs (late rounds) - I suppose its possible the Chargers will be looking for another developmental prospect at QB next year with either Volek leaving or Crompton maybe not working out. Dalton is the focal point of the TCU offense, but his size, the spread offense and some kinks in his passing make him a fringy NFL prospect. He'll get his whole senior year and probably an All Star game to impress. Dalton has been mentioned on more than one Heisman watch list.
Boise St. - The Broncos are Mountain West bound next year, but right now they'll got a big time Monday night matchup. Boise State has BCS bowl game and National Championship aspirations. Both those goals are dependent on beating Virginia Tech on Monday.
Nate Potter, OT, Senior, 6'6, 293 lbs (2nd or 3rd rounds) - The Chargers depth at OT is not great so we're keeping an eye out for prospects at the position as much as possible. Potter's current draft grade isn't the greatest, but he could really improve that stock in his senior year and needs to take advantage of matchups like Virginia Tech on the schedule. His strength is in run blocking, but he's more of a finesse guy than a mauler.
Virginia Tech - The Hokies may not need this Monday night game as much as Boise St. does since they'll still have a shot at a BCS bowl game win or lose, but Frank Beamer will have his boys ready to play. This team is known for making big plays on special teams, so watch out for that along with these NFL prospects.
Ryan Williams, RB, Sophomore, 5'10, 210 lbs (1st or 2nd round) - The Chargers probably won't be drafting a RB high in the 2011 draft and Williams probably won't come out (he's a draft-eligible sophomore) especially if there are labor problems. However, he's one of the most explosive college players and has a lot of the vision you'd look for in an NFL runningback. He's just a fun guy to watch.
Rashad Carmichael, CB, Senior, 5'10, 182 lbs (3rd round or later) - Carmichael is the top draft eligible NFL prospect on the Hokie defense and could be a guy the Bolts look at. His greatest asset on the football field is his top end speed. He needs to get better at supporting the run game.